“During August, 1892, while attending the funeral of one of our foremost citizens, the large crowd present found their way to the grave as best they could through sunflowers, weeds, and briars, trampling over the tumbled-in graves of the loved ones of others, now desecrated by varmints of any kind that chose to abide therein. A most forlorn and hopeless condition of affairs!
This cemetery had been a burying ground since 1872. No law nor order governed it. When a person died someone would select a grave any place they chose and at any angle, and twice in its history money was raised to enclose this place with a wire fence. All this was now in a state of dilapidation and once or twice while digging graves it was accidentally set afire from smoking pipes and the careless smoker throwing a match into the dry grass.” Written by Mrs. Bilbo, 1910
The area described above is now the “old cemetery” – a vast open space where only a few headstones have survived the years. Fires, vandalism, and age have taken their toll and there is nothing more that can be done for the residents of that section. But the rest of the cemetery is in better shape than it has been in several years, thanks to the efforts of the current members of the Civic and Cemetery Club.
I visited the cemetery the week before Heritage Day to see some of the improvements for myself. Gary and I had recently chosen Gethsemane as the final resting place for his brother, and for ourselves, but I hadn’t taken the time to really notice the changes that have taken place in recent months. I was very pleased to see that the trees have been trimmed, the fence row cleaned, roads graveled, and new signs erected. The grass is neatly trimmed and it’s easier to find and photograph headstones, something I do for Find A Grave. There is a new section now available for plot purchases.
Buying a burial plot is something Gary and I had discussed for years, and finally got around to doing. There were always reasons for putting it off- other things on which to spend the money. However, the sudden death of his brother, and the challenge of making all of his arrangements in a short amount of time, prompted us to take care of our own burial plans. It gives us a sense of peace to know that our passage will be memorialized where we have been the happiest, although the irony of three Californians ending up in an Oklahoma cemetery has not escaped us.
I’m not posting this because I’m feeling particularly morbid or anything. I hope the Lord chooses to let me stay here for another thirty years: I still feel like I have places to go and things to do. But I read recently that baby boomers feel a sense of responsibility that is perhaps stronger than that of subsequent generations- akin to the “oldest child” syndrome- and so we are much more likely to pre-plan our departures, including wills, funeral plans, and burial plots. Whatever the reason, this morning I feel a sense of calm knowing that when my soul returns to Jesus, my body will rest in peace with friends and family members at Gethsemane.